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Jonah: Truth Matters

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Today Pastor Ed Allen began a Summer Book Study in the books of Jonah and Nahum.  The first sermon on Jonah was titled, "Truth Matters:  Fish Story or a Little Fishy...?"

Today we mainly looked at the question of whether Jonah was written as a historical account or as a morality play, fiction intended to instruct.

Why do we care?

1)  Truth matters.

2)  Our faith has been assaulted intellectually for centuries, and we need to respond to that assault.

3)  There are young people here who will be exposed to alternatives to the Christian world view.  Let's expose them to an honest, robust look at faith.

We do want to know what was the intention of the author.  Was the book of Jonah intended to be historical or intended to be fiction?

Reasons to believe Jonah was written as a historical account:

--  In content and form it resembles the historical narratives of the Old Testament.

-- This is especially true of the opening of the book.

-- The book has an actual historical setting.

-- The historical information, as far as can be ascertained, is accurate.

-- Early scholarship/readership assumed it was history (Josephus, for example).

-- Jesus seemed to believe it was a retelling of actual events.  (See Luke 11:30-33.)  Jesus was a Biblical scholar who thought truth was important.

Reasons to believe Jonah was written as instructive fiction:

-- The book does not identify its author.  (But this is also true of I and II Samuel and many other historical books of the Old Testament.)

-- Too many miraculous details are piled on top of one another.  (This is a strong point.  In the New Testament, miracles tend to stand more separately.)

-- Lacks some of the traditional hallmarks of Biblical historical writing.  The king's name isn't mentioned.   Some details are vague.

-- The overwhelming use of symbolism and exaggeration do suggest a morality play.

-- The book uses phrases and words that depend heavily on Aramaic.  Most Jews would have learned Aramaic during the Assyrian captivity - after Jonah.  (On the other hand, Jonah preached to Nineveh, so he would have had exposure to Aramaic.)

So how should we read this story?

Three typical responses:

1) Denial:  "Don't tell me about any of the problems.  I believe it 'cause it's in the Bible."

Denial is dangerous.  Do the work of approaching your struggles honestly.  When we doubt, we're in good company, but do the work of moving beyond doubt.  Disbelief is better than apathy.  Faith isn't the absence of reason.

2)  Scientific rationalism:  "There must be a logical explanation for this."

This can be helpful, but it's also dangerous and often leads down blind alleys.  There's a story of a man swallowed by a whale in the 1800s.  But when that's offered as proof of Jonah's story, they don't mention the testimony that said the account was invented.

Besides, this approach tries to remove the supernatural from the story.  But our faith rests on a supernatural event - the Resurrection.

3)  Intractable doubt:  "I don't believe this crazy story.  It's not possible."

If you have trouble believing it's historical, okay, take it as a morality tale.  But if you don't believe God can do miracles -- be challenged to doubt your doubts.

Those of us who do believe don't need to be defensive.  God can handle our doubts.  So can the Bible.

Here's a fourth response, whether you think Jonah is historical or a parable:

Extract its message, then:

Obey and believe it.

Assignment this week:  Read Jonah.

Also, Pastor Ed is going to post truth statements every day this week.  Spend time with them and meditate on them.

Posted by Sondy Eklund with

This Is Us - Marriage, Part 2

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Today Pastor Ed Allen continued his sermon series "This Is Us" by talking again about Marriage.  He took up where he left off last week, continuing to talk about Keys to a Healthy Marriage.

Key #3 -- Speak the truth in love.

This is from Ephesians 4:14-16, and it applies to all relationships.  Telling the truth is a really big deal to God.

Speaking the truth in love builds stability.  It's contrasted with being tossed by waves.

Speaking the truth in love complements spiritual growth and unity.

Speaking the truth in love is critical for church relationships, and especially for marriage.

Some hate confrontation and need to be reminded that burying the hurt doesn't make it go away.  Others can use the truth like a club and need to be reminded that truth that can't be received doesn't help.

There are two kinds of situations where we need this:

When we've been hurt, disappointed, frustrated:

1)  Allow God to show you your real concern.

Anger is a secondary emotion.  The distance between feeling and awareness can cause problems.  Unrecognized emotion can be at the root of passive-aggression and sarcasm.

Ask the Lord what's going on - Psalm 139.

2)  Admit your issue to yourself with grace and vulnerability.

That's the "in love" part.  You're in a good place if you're asking what the real issue is.

3)  Think FAB:

Focus on your feelings.

Avoid absolutes.

Be brief.

Make hurt the substance, not the fuel.

When we have objective criticism.

If not given in love, it can't be received.

Do your PART --

Prayer coverage

Share Active concerns.

Rehearse the criticism (with a trusted friend).

Set a Time (not heat of the moment).

This is a lot of work.  You'll do the work one way or the other!  Do it on the front end!

Key #4 - Practice your relational posture.

This one's particular to marriage, from Ephesians 5:21-33

For wives:  Submit and respect

1)  This requirement is given to wives.

Wives are told to offer submission and respect.  This is not the husband's concern.  He's not to demand it or take it.

2)  Submission, NOT obedience.

We obey God.  This is your relational posture.  It's about order and function, not about power.

3)  Motivation:  As to the Lord.

This is a way of honoring the Lord.  It's addressing something else altogether than sexism or power.

Respect your husband because that is what he needs.

Men want to know their life matters - that's their point of insecurity.

Men need their wives' respect - that's why God called you to it.

4) Degree of submission: In everything.

The emotional posture needs to be respect.  This does not mean the husband's the boss.  It looks different in different relationships.  This is an attitude.

You're not called to be something you're not.

You're called to offer respect because the man in your life is needy.

For husbands:  Love your wives.

1)  Standard:  As Christ loved the church.

Love is a choice.

2)  This means we lay down our lives for our wives.

Authority to serve.

How can you advance her agenda?

Your relational posture:  Laying down your life. 

Authority is not yours to take.  The wife offers that authority.  Authority means service and responsibility.

What we're called to do is harder than a grand gesture - we're called to do it in small, daily ways - because that's what your wife needs.

Your wife needs to be loved.

She's designed to be the recipient of your love.  Don't let your love grow cold.

3)  Goal:  To make her holy.

Not to make her happy.  This is about her purpose.

You can't do it if you don't have a connection with Christ, so work on that connection first.

When you see stains, wrinkles, or blemishes - those are the reason you're called to the relationship.  They get ironed out by love.

Key #5 - Pray together.

Statistics:  The biggest impact on a lasting marriage isn't church attendance, religious belief, or religious upbringing.  It's praying together.